My name is Zach Nehr and I am a 21 year old Cat 1 cyclist from Whitefish Bay Wisconsin. For the last 3 1/2 years I attended Marian University down in Indianapolis IN on a dual academic athletic scholarship. I majored in Exercise Science with a minor in Psychology and completed an internship at Community Hospital East working in their Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Department. While racing for Marian ranked Collegiate Cycling Team I was a part of our team that won the 2015 2016 and 2017 Road Omnium Titles and the 2016 CX Team Omnium Title. My biggest accomplishment came in this past spring when I won the Collegiate Varsity ITT National Championship while riding for Marian. And while I am definitely an expert on Indiana roads I have just as much and probably more knowledge of the Wisconsin roads which I have been riding on since 2012. Every winter and spring I have returned home to Milwaukee and I have put in thousands of hours on these roads along Lake Michigan around downtown where many of the Tour of America Dairyland stages have been up to Belgium WI and all the way west to Holy Hill and even Madison on the epic Bone Ride. I currently ride for the Domestic Elite Team California-Storck a strong elite development team based in San Francisco California and Ill be living at home in Whitefish Bay from now until Fall 2018 when I will be embarking on my next adventure Graduate School pursuing a Master Degree in Physiology. I believe that the Wisconsin bicycling community is an oft-forgotten gem in cycling. Since I have been lucky enough to travel the country to race my bike I have seen and ridden the roads of North Carolina Vermont California Oregon Tennessee Pennsylvania and much much more. But there is still something special about these Wisconsin roads. The beauty of the sandy beaches of Lake Michigan the old mansions mixed in with modern skyscrapers in Downtown Milwaukee the quiet farm roads not more than a few minutes away and the punishingly steep climb up to the Holy Hill Church these roads will always hole a special place in my heart and I hope to share them with as many people as I can.
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My favorite ride is the 80-mile Holy Hill route for its amazing scenery, complete lack of traffic and stop lights, easy access to multiple connecting roads (to get around the innevitable "Road Closed" for construction signs), and the beautiful final climb up to the Basilica.
I first heard about this route from my dad, who loves to tell stories about the group rides he used to do back in the 1980s and 1990s (when it was a 30 mph headwind, uphill, both ways, in the snow). One of my favorite stories is the group ride that he did with a 40+ mph West wind, meaning that the directly-west trek to Holy Hill would be brutal, but for the return trip, you could coast the whole way home. They set off that day with at least 30 riders, and by the time they got to Holy Hill, there were 3: my dad, and two of his cycling friends.
Another story that I love is the time that my Dad and his teammate rode out to Holy Hill, and on their return trip they suffered three flat tires bewteen them, 25 miles from home. Of course, they only had two spare tubes, so they called my mom, who drove out to meet them with extra supplies. At the time, my dad was still in college, and taking classes at UWM in downtown Milwaukee; he realized that by the time my mom got there, he only had 55 minutes until class. Instead of jumping in the car like a normal person, my dad and his teammate jumped back on their bikes, newly-inflated tires and all, and ripped across the plains of Southeast Wisconsin, tore through the village of River Hills, and came careening onto the UW-Milwaukee campus with just a minute to spare. My dad taught me more than one life lesson that day: never skip class, and suffering a flat tire doesn't mean that your ride is over.
The variety of these Wisconsin roads is second-to-none. For those who like the hustle and bustle of the city, Downtown Milwaukee is only a few minutes away, with bike lanes, cobblestones, art museums, and skyscrapers ready to be explored. Riders can enjoy the winding roads of Lake Drive to go south into the city, or they can follow the quieter Oak Leaf Trail. This trail begins in Downtown Milwaukee at the Summerfest Grounds (host of the World's Largest Music Festival), and continues North, albeit at a slight angle, for more than 100 miles! The trail passes through all the best of Milwaukee's neighborhoods, and includes such stops as Culver's Frozen Custard, the Urban Ecology Center, Estabrook Park, and even a Beer Garden! For the more serious cyclists, the North-South Port Washington group ride shows off the quiet, farm roads of Wisconsin, while also treating riders to a beautiful view (and a nice cool breeze in the summer!) of Lake Michigan no more than half-mile away. These are some of my favorite roads because they are smooth, quiet, have little-to-no car traffic, only a single stoplight in a 40-mile ride, and two parks on-route with bubblers (that's what us Wisconsinites call a water fountain) and restrooms. And for the strongest of riders, there are the roads that go west towards Holy Hill. While the short but brutally-steep climb up to the Holy Hill Church is the main attraction, riders will accumulate more than 1,000+ feet of climbing riding the rolling farm roads just to get them there. These challenging farm roads and usually accompanied by a strong West wind (thanks, Lake Michigan), making the out-trip seem like a death march, but followed by a glorious tailwind for the return. And the climb up to Holy Hill isn't the only highlight: the old Road Race loop used in Superweek (and won by a teenage-Greg LeMond) is just south of the Church, and Kettle Moraine State Park is just to the north, and includes more climbs, descents, and fast, winding roads. Once again, all of these routes have perfectly-placed restroom/water stops, and plenty of gas station options for the hungry cyclist.
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